The Day Begins
Most of us slip into old age without a whisper or a clue. We start forgetting things without being aware of our loss. We lose our keys and misplace our bills. We can’t find our car at Wal-mart without a neon sign pointing the way. We talk about past events which may have happened but would not ring a bell in anyone else’s belfry. Should anyone attempt to align our memories with theirs we defend our memories like a dog with a bone. Somehow being right about everything becomes more important than ever. Never mind that our our information could be decades out of date.
At some point our hearing begins to lose frequencies. I recall working in a noisy factory when management decided to avoid possible lawsuits by requiring everyone to take a hearing test. Management was attempting to establish a baseline for insurance purposes. Interestingly enough everyone seemed to have hearing losses in the frequency ranges where air tools and high-speed drills operated. Gee, no surprise. In my opinion I could hear perfectly, but after the test I joked that the lost of certain frequencies was an acquired ability developed to filter out the frequencies my exes spoke on. I was concerned about the result nevertheless.
Our eyes go on the blink. At first we can’t see up close as well as we used to. Our arms are just not long enough to achieve focus. We develop squint lines around our eyes and credit them (to ourselves anyway) to being laugh lines. Finally the indignities begin to occur. We hear a funny joke and during our laughter we sense dampness in our nether regions. Women are accustomed to leakage from the onset of puberty and are well-equipped to handle this situation. Men however, well let’s just say this; we replace our yellowing underwear more frequently.
Next to afflict us seniors, nature seems to attack our reproductive organs. Women develop uterine or breast issues and a high percentage of men experience prostate and erectile dysfunction problems. Some or most of the fun goes out of life at this point.
Finally, if we manage to live long enough, we begin to lose our mental acuity and short-term memory. Events occurring decades ago may be as fresh as yesterday’s news, but yesterday is gone completely. This may be the silver lining in a darkening cloud. Peace of mind comes to troubled minds as each new dawn brings a clean plate to the breakfast table.
I am of an age where this subject has a special significance. Death becomes a real possibility for the first time in life. For most of our lives we live without consciously dwelling on our own mortality. We know we will not escape this life alive, but death is on a far distant horizon. It may be visible in every direction but it has left us untouched for the moment.
If we haven’t already been questioning ourselves about who we are or what we have become we do so now. We look at who we say we are and try to match that up to someone else’s point of view. Some people make it to this point in life without having spent a single moment of their lives in serious introspection.
I feel sorry for these people, though, because I believe the worst forfeit anyone can make in life is to fail to recognize who they really are. Most of us are treated like silly putty. We are pressed into a mold from birth and never break out of it. Our ink is readily transferable.
Whether our lives have made a difference to anyone else’s life is irrelevant. If there is a God I believe She could care less. The big question is what your life has meant to you. If you, on your judgment day, can honestly say you did your best, who could ask for more? No God would love his fallen children less than those most gifted and rewarded.
The idea that you have to pass some type of test to get into heaven could not possibly be correct. Simply put, it takes all kinds of people, both in line and across the line, good and bad, weak and strong to make a village. We wouldn’t recognize one without the other. It takes many deaths and much pain to make up the rich tapestry that is the signature of humanity.
The only thing every human being has in common with another is the gift of life. From the moment of birth forward we all go our separate ways to the grave. I would much prefer to present myself as someone who knew himself, and lived life on his own terms. I would prefer to move on with my eyes wide open; not, as Tom Cruise’s movie suggests, with eyes wide shut.